Music
(Youtube)

Thando

8 African R&B Acts to Check Out

Many African artists grew up listening to R&B and eventually made it their own. Check out our list featuring Tems, Thando, Ayra Starr, Ria Boss, Elaine and more.

Although afrobeats is a musical force to reckon with in Africa (to be fair, mostly in West Africa), there are multiple genres still thriving in smaller scenes—and R&B is one of them.

Created in America in the 1940s, R&B went on to spread all over the world, giving birth to other musical styles such as ska, funk, and rock. Contemporary R&B appeared in the late '70s, as disco was dying. Many African artists grew up listening to the genre and eventually made it their own. In Africa the genre is even more female-dominated than elsewhere in the world. Here is our list of the R&B artists from the continent you should check out.


Tems

The Nigerian singer-songwriter and producer Tems' early singles like "Mr Rebel" and "Try Me" became instant hits. Her first EP, For Broken Ears, released in 2020, offers a mid-tempo sound, relatable lyrics and a deep voice that make her music standout. Tems is a force to be reckoned with, here to change and shape the musical scene.

Thando

Zimbabwean singer and songwriter Thando started out by posting a few viral videos of herself singing, inspired by TikTok clips. She then released her single, "First in Line," about wanting to be treated better in a relationship. Her debut EP A Force to Be Reckoned With is out now and features her single "Weak," which gained momentum for the beauty of its lyrics. Thando's sound has a classic feel to it with some contemporary additions, from trap beats to afrobeats, with her deep voice making everything even more soulful.

Ayra Starr

Ayra Starr started posting videos of herself singing online and became one of the youngest artists signed to Mavin Records. She has just released her single "Away" from her eponymous debut EP, which explores themes such as coming of age, heartbreak and love. Her strong voice reaches many emotions, from sorrow to regret to relief. Ayra Starr's music is a well crafted mix of a deep bass sounds, choirs, slow drums and occasional trap beats.

Ria Boss

Ghanaian-Burkinabe singer-songwriter Ria Boss decided to launch a musical career after graduating from high school, despite her shy personality. For two months in 2018, the prolific artist released weekly EPs as part of a project called #ThankGodForRia. Her rich voice and slow tempo songs make her music haunting, with lyrics that aim to empower women. The multitalented artist also dabbles in fashion and is the new face of Ghanian-Canadian brand Osei-Duro.

Hunter Rose

South African singer-songwriter Hunter Rose released her debut album, Love & Trust, in 2020. It was two years in the making but well worth the wait. Inspired by artists like Anita Baker and D'Angelo, it was a way for the artist to experiment with her music. The album's themes run deep and are relatable: sorrow, lust for life and love. Hunter Rose's songs are warm with a classic feel to them.

Marieme

The cultural shock that Senegalese-American singer Marieme experienced when she moved to the US, had a big impact on her music. Her single "Leave," for example, is a song about resilience and independence supported by her powerhouse vocals. Growing up in Senegal, Marieme says that she wasn't allowed to listen to music but that changed in the US, when she discovered Mariah Carey. Her 2020 track "Lovechild" conveys themes that are important to her such as being understanding of others, freedom and love for ones self. Her stunning visuals are inspired by manga, and animation, showing her as a powerful, confident figure.

Elaine

South African singer Elaine released her single "You're The One" while juggling law studies, then it became a hit. In 2019, she self-released her first EP Elements, gaining national and international accolades, including becoming the most streamed woman artist in the country. The album was certified platinum, leading to her signing a deal with Columbia Records. The rich timbre of her voice and whispering vocals take the listener on a journey, as she sings about loneliness and lost love. Her sound retains a very modern feel to it with its use of trap beats.

Langa Mavuso

The South African R&B singer popped up in the scene with an old school sound, dramatic violins and lyrics about heartbreak, losing someone, and accepting it. These are universal themes that his growing and loyal audience can relate to. D'Angelo, Caiphus Semenya and Musiq Soulchild are some of his many inspirations. His talent was such that many artists, including Black Coffee and Spoek Mathambo, have approached him to work together. He recently released his first album Langa. His single "Intiliziyo" with Loyizo is a haunting, soulful and sad song about the power of regrets,

Interview
Image supplied.

Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Interview: Made Kuti Talks Afrobeat, Activism & Family Legacy

We speak with Made about his debut album and the part he's playing in keeping the Kuti heritage alive.